My Vietnam mission trip held God’s mercy and love as I traveled throughout the country in June and July to meet with Novices and Junior Sisters. I arrived in Saigon after a 24-hour trip that included two layovers. It took two hours to get through Customs and to retrieve luggage. Sister Agnes Q. Nhu met me at the airport and drove to the student hostel in Saigon. I met with 12 students there, some of whom are thinking about Good Shepherd vocation! The students were interested in knowing about the Good Shepherd Sisters in the U.S.
I left Saigon the next day and flew to Central Vietnam to visit my relatives in Hue. Hue is an ancient city. It was a chosen place, where the Nguyen Dynasty reigned for many years. While there I gave a workshop on communication skills to two congregations of religious women: The Lovers of the Cross ( 157 participants) and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate ( 82 participants). Their Mother Houses are located in Hue. Many Sisters are there waiting for their new assignments because it is summer.
The Daughters of Mary Immaculate Novices in Hue is a diocesan congregation. Like most of the nuns in Vietnam, they have large buildings and many sisters. RGS in Vietnam don’t have buildings and we have so few Sisters, but we are very happy! Thank God!
Connecting with our Sisters
I left Hue and returned to Saigon to continue my Vietnam mission trip by plane from Da Nang airport. Then I caught a bus to make a three hour journey to Vinh Long, where I met with many of our wonderful Good Shepherd Sisters. I connected with Sisters Catherine Phan and Joanna Le and met many young Sisters who were making final and temporary vows. I also met many Novices. Suddenly the small house where our Sisters live became alive with 26 women laughing, singing, cooking and feasting!
I spent the next three days giving workshops on communications to 15 Junior Sisters. The workshops included motivational interviewing skills and a brief introduction to “CARE,” the empowerment approach to communications that the Province of Mid-North America has been practicing for five years. The Sisters in Vinh Long are extremely interested in learning effective communications skills. They enjoyed practicing strategies from CARE but will find them difficult to adopt in a Vietnamese culture.
We Asians learn to obey and honor our parents from birth until death. When we enter religious life we are expected to transfer this way of thinking onto our Religious Community.
We believe we are evaluated as good religious if we leave everything in the superior’s hand (God’s hand). Our culture teaches us to obey and depend completely on superiors. Sisters in Vietnam find it very, very difficult to apply any “new” way of communicating, such as CARE. The superiors in Hue were hesitant to tell me what they think.
In Vietnamese culture, asking for and wanting clarification can be interpreted as disobedience or confrontation. That’s why I believe, to be transformed, communications training in Vietnam would have to apply to a Sister’s Religious Community as well as her biological family. I realize that this would not be an easy thing to accomplish.
After the 3-day workshops, I continued my mission trip mostly in retreat. I traveled by public bus with nine Junior Sisters through the night (eight hours) to visit the Benedictine monastery in the rural Highlands. We stayed at the monastery on retreat for eight full days. The nuns living here work the farm. They chant their prayers many times during the day.
I spent most of my time on retreat praying for the Junior Sisters and asking the Lord to use me as His instrument to help them in their inner work during this precious time.
I am thankful to God that the Sisters had a very good experience on retreat and am so grateful for God’s merciful love and for your prayerful support.
Junior Sister takes final vows
As part of my mission trip, I witnessed Jacinta Duong making her final profession of vows in Vinh Long, Vietnam. Four Good Shepherd Sisters from the Province of Mid-North America attended the ceremony on July 24. I attended the ceremony, along with Jacinta’s aunt Sr. Monica Duong, Sr. Joanna Le and Sr. Catherine Phan.
NOTE: Jacinta made her vows in the presence of family, friends, Junior Sisters and church officials. Sr. Monica made the habit that her niece wore for the special occasion. She also made habits for the Junior Sisters who were in the procession with Jacinta. She designed, cut, stitched and hemmed the habits at the Province Center and took them with her to Vietnam. In total Sr. Monica has made 17 habits for Sisters in Vietnam. She said, “I’m always happy when the girls put on the habits and they fit.”